Rights are entitlements or justifiable claims; human rights are a special kind of claim that one is entitled to by virtue of being human. In recent scholarly accounts, the eighteenth century has emerged as the period when rights became human rights, that is, when rights were declared as natural (inherent in human beings), equal (the same for everyone), and universal (applicable everywhere). This course examines the role of literature in imagining and articulating rights, focusing in particular on specific eighteenth-century literary forms such as the epistolary novel, the Bildungsroman, and autobiographical testimony. Possible topics for discussion include: the role of sentimental literature in shaping new conceptions of human equality; the relationship between humanitarian sensibility and human rights; and the ways in which various marginal groups, especially women and slaves, used the language of rights to advance claims of equality. Readings: Samuel Richardson, Clarissa (1748); Cesare Beccaria, On Crimes and Punishments (1764); Denis Diderot, The Nun (1796); Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative (1789); Mary Prince, History (1831); Susan Brison, Aftermath (2002); J.M. Coetzee, Disgrace (1999); and Jean Amery, At the Mind’s Limits (2009). Requirements: regular attendance and participation; periodic posts on D2L; one book review, and a final research paper. 

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